Financial Advice

The $20K Buffet Credit Card Nightmare

Losing $300 to a buffet sounds like one of the worst all-you-can-eat deals on the planet.

Investigators in Houma, La., are trying to track down fraud suspects after multiple customers of a local Chinese buffet restaurant reported seeing hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges on their accounts after using their credit and debit cards at the restaurant, reports the Houma Courier. At least 20 people said their card information was used to make purchases between $300 and $1,000 at area retailers after dining at the restaurant, totaling more than $20,000 in unauthorized transactions.

Police are looking for a male suspect who is accused of using stolen customer information to make fake credit cards and IDs to show when making purchases, but he is believed to have left the area. Investigators say he got the information from two waitresses who worked at the restaurant, for whom police are also searching.

Restaurant servers stealing diners’ credit card information isn’t terribly common, but stories like this pop up in the news every once in a while. It’s not so much that you shouldn’t trust anyone with your credit card (though you should be cautious) as much as you should regularly check your credit and debit card activity. The more frequently you do it, the easier it is to spot a transaction you didn’t make, as your previous purchases will be fresh in your mind.

You want to spot and shut down fraud as soon as possible. Consumer protection laws will generally keep you from being held liable for fraudulent transactions, but those protections vary by what kind of card you’re using (credit, debit or prepaid) and how quickly you report the problem. With the ease of online and mobile banking, there are few reasons you shouldn’t be able to check your accounts daily. In addition to checking your bank accounts, you should review your free annual credit reports and your credit scores regularly (you can get your free credit score each month on Among the many reasons to check your credit standing, a huge, unexplained change in your credit score can be a sign of fraud or identity theft.

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This article by Christine DiGangi was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.